Summary: The author of Hebrews has made the case that the New Covenant is superior to (and fulfills) the Old Covenant. What then are the requirements of this new covenant?
Before we continue our study of Hebrews this morning, I want to take a moment to comment on our Gospel lesson found in Mark chapter 12. I love that short little story about the widow who placed her two coins in the offering. I love the way that Jesus so graciously commends this woman—not because her gift is a large monetary gift, but because her heart was large—and she gave all she had. While her two small coins may have seemed insignificant to those responsible for maintaining the temple and supporting the priests, it was the most significant gift to God that day—because she gave her all.
Jesus provides a great lesson for His disciples, one that speaks as strongly to our culture as it did theirs. Instead of being preoccupied with material wealth or political influence, Jesus is concerned with the status of the heart. You don’t see Jesus trying to get close to those who have great financial resources, but commending those who are willing to give out of what God has given them.
I fear that sometimes we think our resources are meager, and so we hesitate to give them at all. Will God be insulted by my gift of $2? Not if that’s all that I have to give. Will my gift of two dollars make a difference in the Kingdom of God? It will if it’s given with a cheerful and thankful heart.
Today in your bulletin you will find our monthly statistical update, detailing our attendance, and our giving to missions and to the work of this local church. While the report shows us as meeting all of our financial goals for the month of October, it’s important to note that we are quite behind in our goal for this church year, which ends on March 31st.
Now, please understand, I’m not the sort to beg or plead or give compelling speeches or to guilt you into giving more. We’ve all seen preachers use guilt and shame as a motivator, and while it may have short-term effectiveness, the long-term result is never good.
I would much prefer that you hear about God’s grace and His faithfulness, and that you are compelled to give—not because of a fiery preacher—but because of the God who gave so much for you. When we consider that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, we realize that such love really does demand my soul, my life, and my all. And so, while I want to inform you of the financial needs of this local ministry, it is more important to me that you are truly obedient to God’s call on your life—giving of yourself with a thankful and cheerful heart.
Your finance committee met yesterday, and studied our financial reports (as we do every six months). Our spending plan is on track with current income, and so we believe that we are being good stewards of what God is entrusting to us. However, the finance committee also spent a considerable amount of time brainstorming ways to help return us to a position where we can consider returning to a full-time pastoral package. When it comes right down to it, we realized that the only way to make this happen is simply for us to be sure that we are giving our all—just like the widow and her two coins.
You see, I believe this—God doesn’t care as much about how large our gift is—He cares if we are giving our all. He doesn’t care about who gives more or who gives less—He cares if we are trusting Him to care for us, and are properly using the resources that He has entrusted to us. I believe that God wants us to give to His work in the same measure that He has supplied us—always bringing our very first and our very best into His Kingdom. I also believe that God has given us everything we need to accomplish His purposes here in Cape Elizabeth and Greater Portland…we simply have to examine our own lives to see if we are giving our all—our time, our talents, and our treasures.
The last few weeks we’ve been talking about the Old and New Covenants, and the ways in which they are different—and that the New Covenant is superior. This question of giving to God is one way in which they are different. For in the Old Covenant, the law dictated what you gave—and you were expected to give a minimum of 10% to the temple--and that didn’t count various other offerings that were collected to offer social services and run the country. Under the Old Covenant, people might actually sit and count out kernels of grain in order that they would give exactly a tenth to God. The importance of tithing was carried to every area of life—sometimes in a very legalistic way.